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Things to Do in Kanto - page 5

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Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon)
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The symbol of the Asakusa neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan, the impressive, large, red Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, gives visitors a grand welcome to Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa Temple). Standing 38 feet tall (11.7 meters), Thunder Gate gets its powerful name from Raijin, the god of thunder, one of the two deities it honors. Four statues guard Thunder Gate: at the front, the Shinto gods of wind and thunder attract the most attention. The other two – a Buddhist god and goddess - rest at the reverse side of the gate. Under Kaminarimon, a giant red lantern draws the eye next. The fragile piece was restored and donated to the temple complex in August 2003 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the start of the Edo period. Kaminarimon’s history dates back to the year 941, when a military commander constructed the now iconic gate. Over the centuries, it has been destroyed by fire at least three times, and has always been rebuilt on the same ground.

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21_21 Design Sight

Located in Tokyo Midtown within the city’s Art Triangle Roppongi, 21_21 Design Sight opened to the public in 2007 as a museum and exhibit space dedicated to all forms of visual design. The major art venue, housed within a concrete and glass structure, was the work of Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando in partnership with fashion designer Issey Miyake.

The name, inspired by the English term “20/20 vision,” was chosen to express the aim of the museum to generate and inspire forward-looking design. The museum houses rotating exhibitions and regularly hosts talks and workshops.

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More Things to Do in Kanto

Haneda Airport (HND)

Haneda Airport (HND)

Home to Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, Haneda is one of two major airports serving the Tokyo area. Several low-cost carriers also call this transport hub home, but travelers report some difficulty in finding affordable flights in and out of Haneda. Still, efficient immigration and close proximity to city center make it one of the busiest airports in Asia.

Haneda has three terminals, two of which are connected by underground walkways. A free bus carries travelers between main terminals and smaller jet bridges every five minutes, insuring a smooth transition from the building to the gates.

Terminals 1 and 2 are home to dozens of shops, open-air restaurants and even an observation deck, providing the perfect escape for travelers facing long layovers. (Terminal 2 even has a hotel for those who get stranded by canceled flights.)

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Tokyo SEA LIFE® Park

Tokyo SEA LIFE® Park

Across the bay from Tokyo Disneyland you will easily spot the distinctive glass dome of the city's largest aquarium. Located in Kasai Rinkai park, this government run aquarium is an inexpensive alternative to some of the city's flashier sea parks while still being quite impressive in its own right.

The exhibits each focus on sea life from a different environment: the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, the Caribbean and an extensive exhibit on the local Tokyo Bay. In the watery blue depths you'll encounter giant spider crabs, deep sea isopods, hammerhead sharks and more. There's an enormous theater style tuna exhibit. Outside of the water you'll encounter a waterbird sanctuary featuring puffins and a fun penguin exhibit. The park is also oddly home to Japan's largest Ferris Wheel.

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Sky Circus Sunshine60 Observatory

Sky Circus Sunshine60 Observatory

Sunshine 60 is a skyscraper in Ikebukuro with, you guessed it, sixty stories stretching 240 meters high. For a short while it was the tallest building in Japan until the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building surpassed it in 1991.

The observatory sits on the sixtieth floor. Getting up there is half the fun- the elevators in Sunshine 60 are some of the fastest in the world, whipping passengers from the lobby to the top floor at 600 meter per minute. Once you reach the top there are both indoor and outdoor observation decks. On a clear day you can see up to 100 kilometers. The view is particularly stunning at night. Be careful though- the open air deck can be quite windy!

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Tokyo Disneyland®

Tokyo Disneyland®

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Tokyo Disneyland opened to the public in 1983, making it the oldest Disney theme park outside of the United States. The park is modeled after the original in Anaheim, and you’ll find its rides and attractions spread out over seven themed areas.

World Bazaar serves as the entryway into the park and is similar to Main Street USA in other Magic Kingdom Parks, an area dominated by shops and restaurants. Adventureland is home to popular attractions like the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. Westernland, similar to Frontierland in other parks, has an Old West theme with rides like Big Thunder Mountain and the Mark Twain Riverboat. Critter Country, one of the park’s smaller areas, has only one ride, Splash Mountain. Fantasyland, Toontown and Tomorrowland are all nearly carbon copies of the same areas in the US.

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Shinagawa Aquarium

Shinagawa Aquarium

Shinagawa is smaller than some of the aquariums in Tokyo, but it's full of interesting exhibits and is a great way to spend a few hours. There are over 300 species of sea life divided into sea-surface and sea-floor exhibits. The centerpiece of the aquarium is a domed tunnel that winds through a massive tank, letting visitors experience full immersion while staying completely dry. The sheer amount and variety of fish is mind boggling.

Some of the best parts of the aquarium are the aquatic mammal exhibits. It's delightful to watch the animals play in the spotted seal observation building. There are also dolphin and sea lion shoes daily where you can watch the mammals jump and do tricks. Be careful though- the front rows will get soaked! If you're brave enough to sit up close you can buy a poncho to keep you dry.

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National Museum of Western Art

National Museum of Western Art

Known colloquially as NMW, this government owned museum focuses on acquiring and displaying prominent western artwork. In keeping with this theme the squat reinforced concrete main building was designed by the famous french architect Le Corbusier. It's the only one of his designs in the Far East and is a provisional UNESCO site.

The museum exhibits works ranging from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. In the main building you'll find paintings from the 18th century and earlier. The New Wing houses more modern paintings, as well as the drawings and prints collections. The collection includes greats like Monet, Miro and Van Gogh as well as more lesser known artist. Scattered around and outside of the museum are fifty sculptures by Rodin.

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Tama Zoological Park

Tama Zoological Park

If you find the site of animals in small cages depressing, Tama Zoological park, one hour outside of Tokyo, will perk you right up. Spread out over 129 acres, animals are free to roam in spacious naturalistic habitats. It's a great place to observe native Japanese animals like macaques, Sika deer and Yezo brown bears as well as more exotic species from around the world.

The zoo is split into four major sections: the Asiatic Garden, African Garden, Australian Garden and Insectarium. Tokyo has a special relationship with its international twin area of New South Wales, so the Australia section is particularly well outfitted with koalas, kangaroos and more. Other highlights include a reproduction Asian swampland, a successful elephant breeding program and a lion bus which allows visitors to view the lions in a safari setting.

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